Cycling vs the Gym – What’s Best for Weight Loss?

A new year, a new start, a new you. January is the time of year when most people try to lose all the weight they packed on over Christmas, but with so many different ways to lose weight which is the best?

Many people will flock to the gym to relieve them of that extra Christmas weight, but is this really the best method? Let’s take a look and compare it to the popular pastime of cycling for an idea of how effective it is.

Gym or Cycling to Lose Weight? 

January is one of the most popular months for joining the gym, however by February this tends to die out and the gym returns to normal. Why is this? Because the gym is boring. There’s no hiding from it, it’s hard work, you need to go regularly and ensure that you’re working hard every time you’re there. Fail to do this and you won’t see any benefits at all.

In addition to this, you need to alter your diet and regularly go to the gym to see any improvement at all. Most people who join the gym in January expect to see instant results, failing to see this within a month often means people drop off and stop going – wasting the £30+ a month gym membership.

While the winter months may not be the most popular time to start cycling, things will only get better as you continue. Unlike the gym, you can choose to commute by bike – making it both practical and money saving. You’ll also find that riding a bike is far more enjoyable than sitting on a stationary bike at the gym.

If that wasn’t enough, riding a bike gives you a chance to explore new places, get some fresh air and feel like a kid again. In fact, science has shown that cycling helps to reduce stress, provide a wide range of cognitive benefits and even give you all the endorphins you need to feel happy even on a miserable Monday morning in January.

Cycling to Burn Fat

Let’s forget about the joys of cycling for a moment and focus on burning fat. If we use the number of calories burned as a measurement, we can see the differences between cycling and gym exercises.

Based on an average person weighing around 70kg (it has just been Xmas after all), we can use Harvard University’s research to find out how many calories you’re likely to burn with 30 minute sessions of individual exercises:


  • General Weight Lifting – 112 calories
  • Gymnastics – 149 calories
  • Stationary Bike – 260 calories
  • Rowing Machine (moderate) – 260 calories
  • Circuit Training – 298 calories
  • Treadmill Running – 298 calories
  • Rowing Machine (vigorous) – 316 calories
  • Elliptical Trainer – 335 calories
  • Ski Machine – 353 calories
  • High impact Aerobics – 372 calories
  • Cycling 14 – 16mph – 372 calories
  • Swimming (front crawl) – 409 calories
  • Cycling 16-19mph – 446 calories
  • Cycling at >20mph – 614 calories

As you can see, cycling at a moderate to intense pace is one of the best ways to burn calories out there! These aren’t just figures we’ve made up to suit our purpose either, you can go onto Harvard’s website and look at the research to see these exact findings.

So, if you’re looking to lose weight then cycling for fitness is one of the best ways to do it. Want quick results, go for high intensity sessions where you maintain a high pace over the space of 30 minutes. However, you do need to make sure that you’re changing your diet to aid weight loss.

Alternatively, change your commute to ride a bike into work rather than take the car. This is ideal if you can get there in half an hour, as it means that you will burn nearly 400 calories each way – that’s 800 calories a day or a traditional full English breakfast! Not only that, but think of the money you’d save from putting fuel in your car and driving to work every day – you may find that you’re financially much better off.

For more information on cycling to work, check out Bike2WorkScheme, which is an over arching scheme available to most.